Nice Guys and Society

Trigger Warning: This contains content that may initially appear alarming to some readers. The content will be clarified later in the post.

I know of an introverted young man who is college-educated, with a stable office job and a multitude of hobbies. He’s not out of shape, but he’s not ripped either. He’s also a bit shy but is one of the most ethical people I know.

Unfortunately, he has just been robbed of his wallet and stabbed at a party. He sits on a couch, trying to stop the bleeding. The pain is excruciating. Between sobs, he begs acquaintances for help but to his horror, he gets all this instead:

  1. “You are weak. Nobody likes weak men. You don’t deserve any help.”
  2. “You are who you associate with. If you hang out with violent people, think about what kind of person that makes you.”
  3. “Stop playing the victim card. You should start taking responsibility for your own life instead of blaming others.”
  4. “You were trying to pretend to be nice to the attacker, to manipulate them into liking you. News Flash: People are not coin-operated machines that accept niceness tokens. Thankfully, they saw through your deceit and rightfully stabbed you. You are the scum of the earth.”

Finally, help arrives. At least he’ll survive this one. While his wounds are being bandaged up, the man asks how he can avoid being attacked again. The advice is not much better this time around:

  1. “Be yourself.”
  2. “Why are you so entitled? Nobody is entitled to anything. You should work for it.”
  3. “It’s obvious to everyone else. Why should I spell it out for you? Are you stupid?”
  4. “You let people treat you badly. You should have set clear boundaries and let the attacker know that their behavior is unacceptable.”

I know what you’re thinking: What kind of messed up world does this guy live in? I should mention one important detail about this story: When I wrote “stabbed”, I meant stabbed in the heart (metaphorically).

The sad thing is that some young men, especially Nice Guys, who are trying to understand dating are subjected to this kind of abuse. Why is it that men who are perhaps not the most confident seemingly the target of so much venom? And why is it that such well-meaning men have so little dating success?

In short, why does society attack the victim?

Gender Roles vs. Equality

I have a simple explanation. A Nice Guy is someone who does not conform to our society’s cultural expectation for masculinity – things like tallness, muscularity, stoicism, unwavering confidence, leadership, assertiveness, etc. Nice Guys are shamed and bullied by social conservatives who, consciously or not, demand that people conform to defined gender roles.

A girl once told me that she wanted me to be more like her ex, “a Real Man who could change the oil in a car”. I didn’t see the need – I could just pay the car dealership $60 and not worry about getting toxic oil on my hands. Anyway, it turns out that the Real Man had a DUI conviction so could no legally longer drive. Not sure whose oil he’s going to be changing.

On the other hand, people who support gender equality support doing away with fixed gender roles. A woman should be able to be assertive at work without being labeled a bitch. A man should be able to be less forceful with his opinions, without being labeled weak. A woman should be allowed to have sex without being accused of being a slut. A man should be allowed to be a virgin or a bit socially awkward without being accused of being a loser.

Some people claim to support equality but simultaneously expect that a “Real Man” act in a particular way. In order to deal with this contradiction, cognitive dissonance kicks in and they rationalize their hatred of Nice Guys by turning the term on its head – by saying that Nice Guys are not actually nice.

I can understand this craziness – after all, they themselves are warriors for gender equality who don’t actually support equality. Instead, they are closet social conservatives.

My Advice to Nice Guys

The battle for gender equality is going to be won in the future. In the meantime, it’s better to recognize today’s landscape for what it is. You can still do things that make you conform a bit more to the gender stereotype, without compromising the good parts of your core identity. If you’ve always been a lightweight, you don’t suddenly have to become a bodybuilder. If you’ve always been a bit shy, you don’t suddenly have to become a salesman. But it couldn’t hurt to go to gym or to practice social skills, as it will increase the number of people you appeal to as dating partners.

Having said that, you should date actually progressive women who accept your core identity. Yes, you should work on improving surface traits like clothing or people skills, but you should never compromise on who you are inside. That’s what it means to “be yourself”.

If someone treats you badly – because they don’t accept you for you – cut your losses and stop dating them. Don’t stay in a bad relationship because doing so permanently eats away time. That time could have been better used for finding a good relationship. And the longer you stay in a bad relationship, the worse the break-up will feel.

Toxic Masculinity

Finally, I think one of the worst things a Nice Guy can do is overcompensate and try to become super-masculine, also known as a Black Shirter. Manipulative junk like pick-up artist strategies, as well as the college rape epidemic, probably originate – at least in part – from misguided attempts to fulfill an unhealthy stereotype of what it means to be a Real Man. Instead, men should respect women instead of some pick-up “bible” they got from the used bookstore.

Until next time my friends, keep dating!